December 2015 Bartender of the Month: Jeff Josenhans

Name: Jeff Josenhans

Establishment: Director of Food & Beverage, US Grant Hotel San Diego

Recent Gigs: Josenhans’ “triple threat” title makes him the only person in San Diego who is a Sommelier, Cicerone and a top-rated mixologist at The Grant Grill, and places Josenhans in a notable position nationwide.  Josenhans has created his own philosophy for a balanced yet progressive approach to creating wine lists, culinary-inspired cocktails, both traditional and modern beer programs, and continues to explore industry-leading innovations for his mixology program.   In his seven years at The US Grant Hotel, Josenhans has changed the dynamic from the classic to the exciting, with an extraordinary beverage program. The most popular cocktail at the Grant Grill is THE US GRANT Centennial Manhattan, created as part of the 100th birthday celebration for the hotel. The ever-innovative Josenhans created the Manhattan cocktail in a partnership with the famed High West Distillery in Park City, Utah. The cocktail is aged in premium American Oak for exactly 100 days. 

At the hotel and in scene in San Diego, Josenhans primarily drives innovation within seasonal and culinary focused cocktails, having won the prestigious Chef Showdown – Mixology Pairing competition four times. Josenhans was the first in the country to create cocktails using the traditional champagne method to carbonate cocktails. He has also created Génépi Americana, a project that includes local botanicals but also what is essentially un-aged bourbon as the base for the spirit, as opposed to the traditional European brandy. Josenhans aged the noble experiment in 100% New Allier French Oak and has release a six-month, one year, and two year old bottling.

In addition, Josenhans officially started brewing his very own signature Grant Grill Imperial Manhattan Rye Red, in collaboration with Mission Brewery in San Diego. It is an imperial red ale, made using rye in the grain bill, infused with cigar-smoked Luxardo Maraschino cherries, and then aged in Grant Grill's US Centennial Manhattan seasoned barrels for three-four months. Josenhans’ is a regular contributor to both the U-T San Diego daily newspaper (“Cocktail Designer Superdiner”) and San Diego Downtown News (“The Drink Shrink”), as well as speaker at SommCon San Diego 2015. He is also the winner of multiple cocktail competitions, the 2012 California Hotel & Lodging Awards “Manager of the Year”, and winner of the “Best Garnish” at the 2011 Nightclub and Bar Shake It Up cocktail competition.

Why did you become a bartender?

I started bartending all the way back in 1997, in Stockholm Sweden. I’m a California guy but studied and lived in Europe for 12 years, where the foundation of my beverage knowledge was formed. At the time, Europe was leading the cocktail innovation in the world, until the 2000s when the U.S. took over.

What are some fun flavors you’re working with?

It’s citrus season for us right now so we always love to feature Buddha’s Hand this time of year. It’s like a cross of Jasmine Flower and Lemon – just beautifully aromatic in whatever you put it in. I’m playing a lot with different aspects of beer as well. Barley and hops infused into cocktails, either straight into spirits or as part of drink recipes.

What are you doing different from the norm in your beverages?

We have had a long history of being one of the first to experiment with multiple approaches to cocktails here at The US Grant. We were amongst the first to use barrel aging back in 2009, and were the first to actually do it in a distillery with high quality oak. We also have carbonated cocktails using the champagne method (versus forced carbonation with C02). We like to make our own vermouth, orgeats, grenadine, and all infusions. We have also made our own cordial in the form of a whisky genepi and aged it in-house with brand new French oak. Beyond that, we have collaborated with breweries to fortify beers with cocktails, age beers in our barrels, and cross cask ale with our mixology program.

What’s the next hot trend in mixology?

I think it’s going to be all about who can go the most micro-local. That could mean supporting local distilleries for your spirits program, or boutique premium producers abroad. You will just see less big brands in the market. For those who can make their own ingredients, you will see more of that as well.

What’s in the mixing glass or shaker for your customers?

For New Year’s we are throwing a party for 500 themed around absinthe, featuring an absinthe fairy with a custom, XL absinthe fountain, but also a few select absinthe based cocktails. My favorite is a variation of Death In the Afternoon, but with the addition of house-made Kaffir Lime Cordial, and we changed the name appropriately for the party to Death at Midnight. Should be quite the party drink!

What are you sipping on and why? 

I always like heavy Belgian Beers and Sazeracs when it gets cold outside.

What are you dancing to while mixing?  

Not the world’s best dancer but when I’m in the Muay Thai ring I love dubstep for the moment. That or gangster rap lol.

What are some quirks/quotes you are known for?

“Say what you do and do what you say.”

What role does beer play in your job as a bartender/server?

I am a cicerone and home brewer so beer plays a huge role in my world. Our beer list is curated just as carefully as our cocktail list for sure!

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